Congregational Conversations

There is a lot of discussion going on these days about the future of the Episcopal Church in Mount Vernon, Washington. By this, of course, I am referring to the future of St. Paul’s. The two are, afterall, one and the same. 

This discussion is taking place within our Vestry, the Planning Task Force that has met throughout the month of October, and among congregation members. There will no doubt be times when these discussions take us outside our comfort zones — but as the priest of a congregation in Boise once told me, “It’s not the things we talk about in a relationship that weaken it…it’s the things we don’t talk about.” 

With Helen’s help, Bev Blomgren, Carol Boss, and Dottie Evens have organized a series of “Congregational Conversations” that have invited our St. Paul’s family to come together for a meal following the Sunday service and discuss questions that get to the heart of what we want for our church and our lives in it. The questions, and the respsonses to them, have been posted in the Parish Hall and will now be included on the St. Paul’s website. Listed below are the questions and a summary of how participating congregation menbers answered them. 

Note: Duplicate responses are not typos, but simply a case of more than one person saying the same thing.

RESPONSES TO CONGREGATIONAL CONVERSATION QUESTIONS 

October 18, 2015

1) What do you believe are the most important challenges and concerns that St. Paul’s is facing at this time?

  • Communication – both within our congregation and within the community
  • Deciding who we are as a church congregation and getting the word out
  • How to proceed from the present into the future with the Cluster no longer in existence
  • Articulating our vision
  • Competition with other churches
  • Focus
  • Focus
  • Relevance
  • Defining personal and communal ministry
  • Engaging the members of our congregation in ministry, stewardship, and fellowship
  • Defining our relationship with Resurrección 
  • Financial health – how to pay for clergy, staff and the upkeep of our facility 
  • Money for future operations and to hire a full time priest
  • Keep our doors open to be able to have a religious being and outreach
  • Keep clergy
  • Financial support for full term clergy
  • Keeping Helen
  • Money
  • Money              
  • Plan for staffing
  • Staffing
  • Staffing plan
  • A plan for staffing
  • The biggest challenge I see for St Paul’s is growth.  We are at an organizational style change point; changing to a Program-style of leadership.  The way we function as a church needs to change for us to grow.
  • Stuck between pastoral and program models
  • Getting young adults involved
  • Low numbers
  • Low congregation number
  • Growing our numbers
  • More people
  • Children’s coir
  • Young people choir
  • Sunday school
  • Sunday school 
  • Sunday school

2) How are we being equipped in our spiritual and prayer life to meet these challenges?  How could this be enhanced?

  • Communion
  • Eucharist
  • Yes, by attending 11:00 service on Sunday
  • Weekday Eucharist
  • Add Eucharist to Wednesday Mary Guild
  • Prayer life
  • Intentional prayer
  • EFM
  • EFM
  • More social time together
  • Groups
  • Small groups good
  • Let know about Mary’s, Monday Women’s meetings
  • Small groups are good start, encourage conversations
  • Small groups – Mary’s Guild, Women’s Monday night, Men’s breakfast – advertise them more
  • More people in the church need to know about our “small group” meetings
  • I think we need to be explicitly welcoming to families with children – Sunday school, youth group, daycare, parent’s night out, etc.
  • Excellent preaching
  • Helen does a good job
  • Work on grant to keep Helen           Question 2, continued
  • Advertise the church. Can newspaper help us?
  • Communicating (List?) “What I am reading” – because….Share book reports
  • Personal spiritual reading (book club)
  • Put webpages in bulletin
  • Improved e-newsletter letting us know what the congregation is being equipped to meet our challenge
  • Website
  • Reader board updated
  • Task force
  • Congregational conversations
  • Need for active outreach to pull the congregation together.  We have a priest who is committed to outreach

3) What is God calling the community of St. Paul’s to do within our congregation and within the community?

  • Use information from MBIN & Heart-to-Heart to develop plans for helping in community
  • To figure out who we are
  • God has put resources in front of us – we have to discern how best to use them
  • Community service
  • Care for people in all walks of life no matter the situation
  • Bridge between Latinos & Gringo communities
  • I think we need to nurture our relationship with the Hispanic community – through our school, 
  • day school and Resurrección
  • To define our relationship with Resurrección
  • Help with Resurrección summer camp program
  • Work with Friendship House & Family Promise
  • Friendship House
  • Family Promise
  • Our help in feeding the homeless
  • Support Friendship House, Family Promise
  • Help and feed the homeless
  • Homeless
  • Always being open to help in case of a disaster
  • Participate in community disaster planning
  • Disaster help – building available
  • To practice hospitality to and incorporation of new participants     Question 3, continued
  • To develop many different ways & times for people to engage
  • Explore types of prayer & spirituality
  • Need EFM discussion & prayer ongoing
  • Read more Bible TOGETHER
  • Relax & play
  • Train ourselves for pastoral calling & caring
  • Work with vulnerable, especially aged
  • Look for ways to serve each other on on-going basis
  • To take care of each other
  • Pray for each other
  • Within our congregation – support & strengthen each other – service
  • Without congregation – support & strengthen each other through service
  • To serve those outside of St Paul’s
  • Use building for more music & art
  • Host music ministry
  • Provide venue for music
  • Host and offer educational programs
  • To be a certain kind of person & you learn what that means by paying attention during the service

4) What traditions and activities of the church would you like to see in the life of St. Paul’s?

  • Hospitality, music – keep the theology of the Episcopal Church alive in the community.  More about history.
  • “Praise & Prose” e-letter – sharing thoughts & insights, communication
  • Social events encourage our spiritual life
  • Parish Life activities:  family movie night with simple meal, Blessing of the Brooms; Suds & Spuds 
  • Saturday night suppers
  • Saturday night suppers
  • Brunch potlucks
  • Good coffee hour
  • Encourage more art & music
  • Music with the choir
  • Rich music in worship
  • More sung liturgies on particular occasions
  • Prayer book liturgy
  • Scripturally based preaching
  • Continue the Eucharist weekly
  • Continue Helen’s brilliant sermons
  • More traditional Eucharist Prayer Service II
  • All-inclusive communion/Eucharist
  • Honest & authentic stewardship
  • Shared leadership
  • Real bread, real wine  Question 4, continued
  • Sounding board for priest
  • Christian formation on Sundays and during the week
  • Adult Bible study
  • EFM
  • Adult formation on different days, times
  • Adult formation – Sunday school for adults
  • Adult formation
  • Small groups for study & nurture
  • Lenten Soup & Scripture
  • Retreats
  • Book club
  • Continue interactions among congregations
  • Outreach to the Hispanic community
  • Continue to support Resurrección Summer Camp
  • Easter vigil
  • Seder dinner
  • Maundy Thursday
  • Shrove Tuesday pancake supper 
  • Los Posadas
  • Antique sales
  • Auctions – small
  • Bake sale
  • Bazaar – crafts
  • Benefit concerts
  • Blessing of animals
  • Blessing of the brooms
  • Bridge for the community
  • Continue benefits
  • Easter egg hunt
  • Easter egg huntQuestion 4, cont
  • Plant sale
  • Plant sale
  • Revive the evening of desserts and auction
  • Revive the plant sale
  • Rummage sales
  • Rummage sales
  • Susan Creighton workshop
  • Tea & bake sale
  • Bring way more kids to church
  • And way more kids for youth group
  • Children going to Sunday school
  • Kids as acolytes
  • Youth and children programs
  • Children’s/youth group programs
  • Ideas for youth activities – from St Paul’s youth
  • Bowling
  • Camping
  • Camping
  • Chase night
  • Chess tournament
  • Fort building night
  • Ice cream party
  • Ice cream night
  • Movies night
  • Nerf wars
  • Sport night
  • Swimming
  • Water fights

August 2, 2015

1) How long have you attended St. Paul’s?  What drew you and what keeps you coming back?

  • Have been here since 11/20/13.  Friend in Boise gave recommendation - come back because of great sermons, welcoming people.
  • Been here since 2004.  Family / Ministry
  • Have been here 6 years. Felt at home, spiritual home, good
  • Have been here 21 years. Episcopal in Valley, home base
  • Been here 10 years. Episcopal, immediate home base, spiritual home
  • Been here 68 years, all my life. My mother drew me. The people are my other family.
  • Have been here 10 years. Had attended before, close to home, wife drew me
  • Have been here 20 years. Community, Family of the church
  • Been here 30 years. Episcopal, the people, it’s home, time change, numerous times, attended both services
  • Been here 1&1/2 years. Attracted by the friendliness of the people, continue to return for that reason, like the worship and the people
  • Been here 21 years. The people make us very welcome; they have become our closest friends.
  • Have been here 15 years; have been here 3 years or less. Helen, congregation, service/music, kindest people in congregation (2 responses)
  • Been here 20 years; been here 5 months. The people are my family. (2 responses)
  • Been here 13 months (2 responses).  Close by, changes, nothing
  • Always an Episcopalian. Always will be.

2) Since you’ve attended St. Paul’s, how has the service schedule changed?

  • I would prefer earlier service so I could get an earlier start on my day
  • It was 9:30, 10:30, & 11:30
  • Prefer 11am
  • Any time
  • Since we attended St. Paul’s the service has always been 8am & 11am
  • It was 9:30am, 10am, 11am
  • Need an earlier service to attract younger families
  • An earlier service allows more of the day
  • It was 9am morning prayer, 10am main, 9:30 combined, 8am, and 11am.  Prefer 10 am
  • Service has changed numerous times - 9, 10, 11- I’ve gone to all including 8am
  • If I don’t go to church on Sunday, it messes up my whole week!
  • We at one time had Sunday School  between services
  • I like the schedule now - except the late service could be earlier
  • It was 8am and 10am with adult group in between, changed due to cluster
  • Service changed 9:30 to 10 to 11 - 11am is too late
  • Changed from 10 to 11 - too late
  • Service at 10am is the best
  • I would like earlier - 9:30 or 10am
  • Service too long - starts too late 

3) What makes Sunday different for you than other days of the week?

  •  A day to focus, reflect, try to refresh
  • Church is my Sunday, quiet - family time
  • Attending church
  • Worship, getting close to God
  • Gathering with church family
  • Enjoy our clergy
  • I feel the love, peace and joy of God in the service with the dear people
  • Sundays were often more stressful since they were before Monday
  • Now Sundays, since attending church, they are more reflective and revitalizing - renewal
  • Music throughout the service!
  • Come together to worship, to refresh your soul
  • Eucharistic Prayer 
  • Story of our salvation history and God’s faithfulness
  • The great Amen
  • No difference - I esteem them both
  • I attend church
  • I work every other weekend, it’s a day off and a day for church
  • Busier
  • Don’t have to get up early
  • More fun - play more
  • Hard to be an active member if have to work  

4) What is the most meaningful part of the service for you?

  • Music
  • Sermon
  • Communion
  • Communion
  • Sermon
  • Eucharist
  • Music
  • Fellowship
  • Sermon
  • Morning Prayer
  • Liturgy
  • Sermon
  • Sense of community
  • Forgiveness
  • Bringing the Bible lessons to present
  • Communion Service
  • Singing
  • Music
  • Communion
  • Communion
  • The Peace
  • Helen’s sermons
  • Eucharist
  • Spending time with members of my congregation
  • Music
  • Every part - all fits together
  • Connection with community
  • Relationship with community
  • Sermons are tremendous help
  • Communion
  • Music
  • Clergy message
  • At communion time, after I go back to my place, I look at all the people and realize how much I love them

5)  What do you enjoy about the singing?

  • Choice of music is excellent.
  • Music is difficult
  • Need more uplifting timely music with traditional
  • Togetherness
  • Joy
  • Singing when all join in with familiar hymns
  • I like some of the hymns, but not the slow draggy ones. I’d like to explore some more contemporary songs from Wonder, Love & Praise. I appreciate the way hymns usually mesh with the lessons & sermon
  • It’s a joyful noise to the Lord
  • Like mixing contemporary & traditional 
  • We love the choir: choice of hymns, prelude, postlude
  • All are skillfully chosen for the lessons
  • Everything!
  • Our choir is terrific and a joy to sing along with
  • Lively songs not dirges
  • Learning new songs for the choir
  • I enjoy singing period!
  • Listening to other people
  • Harmonizing, just singing, joy, selection of meaning music fitting with liturgy
  • Good acoustics help
  • Singing of Psalms & Gospel music

6) When people ask you why you are an Episcopalian, what do you tell them?  How do you describe St. Paul’s to people who haven’t visited here?

  • Welcoming
  • Open to all
  • I love the freedom to express our thoughts openly without fear of retribution.
  • St. Paul’s is very friendly
  • Raised in the church
  • No reason to change
  • We are inclusive
  • Traditional
  • Bible readings
  • Music
  • No one asks
  • Friendly
  • Truthful
  • My Mom took me to an Episcopal church when I was young - I have gone ever since
  • St. Paul’s is my church family and then I ask them to come to a service.
  • TEC is the via media
  • We are inclusive and look forward to meeting new people.
  • St. Paul’s has its struggles but we are a loving place.
  • You don’t have to check your brain at the door. You are encouraged to question and find answers. The TENT is huge and we do not try to define or limit “God’s children”.
  • Lucky
  • Met Episcopal priest - trusted
  • Liberal - open to different ideas and not told what you have to think
  • Formal service
  • We are very open and accepting of all people
  • We have a broad theological diversity
  • People are involved in service to the community
  • I can sit, stand, or kneel as you wish
  • I am a cradle Episcopalian but I would be one anyway
  • I like being able to think along with believing
  • Our open & accepting attitude is the best!
  • I like the openness of the faith to question
  • I tell people it is an accepting place
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